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England, Scotland, Wales: MPs & voting in the House of Commons

Published Friday, June 26, 2015

This note analyses the geographic composition of governments and voting patterns of MPs representing England, Scotland and Wales in the House of Commons. It does so in light of the Smith Commission Heads of Agreement on further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament, along with subsequent debate about both Scottish representation at Westminster and ‘English votes for English laws’.

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This briefing paper was first published 4 December 2014 following the Scottish Independence Referendum, publication of the Smith Commission Heads of Agreement and proposals for “English votes for English laws”. It has now been updated to include the results of the May 2015 General Election and full division records for the 2010-15 Parliament. 

This note analyses the geographic composition of governments and voting patterns of MPs representing England, Scotland and Wales in the House of Commons.

Six of 19 governments since 1945 have had a sufficient number of MPs in England to form a UK majority consisting of English MPs only. Of these six governments two were Labour administrations, three Conservative and one the current Coalition.

Among others, Churchill (1951), Thatcher (1979) and Blair (2001, 2005) required the support of MPs from multiple constituent countries of the UK to form a majority in the Commons. Of 19 governments since 1945, 16 (84%) have held a majority among English MPs.

Of approximately 3,800 divisions to occur between 26 June 2001 and 26 March 2015, 25 (0.7%) would have concluded differently had the votes of Scottish MPs not been counted.

In the 2010-15 Parliament the lobby in which the majority of English MPs have voted coincided with that of the majority of UK MPs for 99% of divisions. The majority of Scottish MPs has coincided with the majority of UK MPs for 26% of divisions; that of Welsh MPs for 28% of divisions.

The Library Standard Note The English Question provides further information on the legal and technical issues involved in identifying “England only” legislation.

Commons Briefing papers SN07048

Author: Richard Keen

Topics: Devolution, House of Commons, Parliament

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